Mohun Bagan’s new owners must preserve its identity, says Bhaichung Bhutia

Published : January 17, 2020 17:18 IST

Baichung Bhutia. Photo: Vijay Soneji

Mohun Bagan, one of India’s iconic football clubs, has embarked on a new journey after being merged with ATK FC, the RP-Sanjiv Goenka-owned football club that plays in the Indian Super League (ISL). Indian football legend Bhaichung Bhutia has hailed this new chapter in the history of the 130-year-old club from Kolkata. He feels that if the identity and the history of Mohun Bagan are preserved in its new avatar, and the new owners “properly utilise the name and the logo of the club then it would be a great gain for both parties”.

Bhutia, who has played both for Mohun Bagan and for its great rival East Bengal during his illustrious career, also feels that the move is good for Indian football in general. The former captain of the Indian football team said: “For Indian football to do well, you need historic clubs to do well too, and for that you need good management. ATK is one of the best-run football clubs in India and is definitely coming in with excellent management for Mohun Bagan. Moreover, Sanjiv Goenka (chairman of the RP-Sanjiv Goenka Group) is a person who can understand the history and the legacy of the club,” Bhutia told Frontline. Bhutia also believes that it is just a matter of time before East Bengal also starts playing in the ISL, and the legendary rivalry between the two clubs will continue.

On January 16, it was announced that the RP-Sanjiv Goenka Group will have an 80 per cent stake in the club, while the remaining will be with Mohun Bangan Football Club. The new entity, which will be named ATK-Mohun Bagan, will come into existence in June and will participate in the 2020-2021 ISL season. Announcing the merger, Sanjiv Goenka said, “There is a lot of history that comes with Mohun Bangan…. We are a company that is used to dealing with legacies and absorbing and assimilating cultures.”

Die-hard Mohun Bagan fans, however, are still trying to come to terms with the development and are left with a feeling of uncertainty. “It is a mixed feeling. On the one hand, we know how important it is for funds to flow in for our team to perform well, which this merger will ensure. But on the other hand there is this fear that the legacy and the identity of the club may be completely gobbled up by this new entity,” Drimi Chaudhuri, a hardcore Mohun Bagan fan from his childhood, told Frontline.